When we finally arrived at our destination we toured the quarry full of dinosaur bones.
After yet another diaper change, we went on a driving tour of the park, to see some petroglyphs and such.
We finished with plenty of daylight still left, so we then decided that it might be fun to leave the park, and drive around to the Colorado entrance, where there are several overlook spots on the way into the park that are reportedly very pretty. We hadn't really planned on going to Colorado, but we figured that we had nothing to lose. We stopped several times at some of the first little overlook spots. We noticed a storm nearby, and it looked interesting, lot's of lightning off in the distance, but didn't give it too much thought.
Justin was starting to worry that it was going to be too dark by the time we got to the best overlooks, so he started speeding. Because I'm a bit of a backseat driver I was all over his case about slowing down. We were seeing a lot of deer and I was worried he was going to fly around one of the corners and hit one. We finally got to the first major overlook, and we were at about 7,800 feet altitude, and there suddenly seemed to be quite a bit of lightning near us. We reached the turnoff for that overlook, and neither Justin or I felt great about heading out there. We were starting to see a lot of lightning out that direction, and it seemed uncomfortably close, so we skipped it and decided we'd go to the next one. We kept driving and before we reached the next turn off we both started to feel very uneasy about the situation. Now there was a lot of lightning and it seemed like it was closing in from all directions. We pulled over and I got out to take one picture.
Justin started pestering me to get back into the car with "if you get hit with lightning I'm going to be so mad at you!" Another couple of bolts nearby and I decided to heed his advice and get back in the car. We turned around and started heading back out of the park. The deer were still an issue, so we couldn't go too fast. In fact, we now noticed that the deer were travelling in herds. Neither Justin or I have ever seen anything like it, and in retrospect it still seems very surreal. We realized, after we finally saw the biggest buck I have ever laid eyes on lead a group of five other deer across the road in front of us in a dead sprint, that the deer were all headed to low ground. This was when we realized that we were thousands of feet in the air on basically a flat plateau, with no trees, or really anything out there, except big, wide open spaces, and as Justin so eloquently put it "in our little metal box." What initially seemed like a bad situation, suddenly became a REALLY bad, REALLY scary situation. The storm rolled in until it was directly overhead, and we were still there, on that stupid road, nothing around us except lightning striking every couple of seconds, so close that several times Justin and I both felt the electric pulse from the bolts. You know how you see the clouds light up from a distance, but no bolt comes out of them... Since we were right there in the storm we could see the lightning shooting through the clouds over our heads, and worse yet, sometimes we just saw the flash and could tell that the lightning was pretty much directly overhead. It was pouring rain, Justin was going as fast he dared on the wet roads, and then it turned to hail and started coming down so hard that our visibility was literally probably only 6 inches, and the lightning was hitting so close to the car at that point that I was certain that the next bolt would hit us for sure. Justin remarked later that the bolts were so close that each one left him with an almost dazed feeling. It was simultaneously one of the most spectacular things I've ever witnessed, and one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. I was certain that even if Justin and I were to survive a bolt, that my one-month old baby in the back seat would not.
We finally, after what seemed like forever, got into town. I'm not sure I've ever felt so relieved. Now we laugh about what idiots we were for not realizing the storm was headed our way, for not noticing that the deer were acting very strange, and mostly for driving all the way over to Colorado to not see a single one of the big overlooks, but to land ourselves in the middle of that mess. Thankfully, our baby slept through the entire experience. I'm not sure how she managed that, but I count it a blessing, because I don't know that my nerves could have handled her screaming in the background. I saw this http://www.ksl.com/index.php?nid=148&sid=31297320 in the news this morning. We were east of this, where allegedly these sorts of storms intensify, and of course, at almost 8,000 feet altitude. The great news is, that not only did we survive the experience without being struck by lightning, hitting a deer, or hydroplaning off the road, but we arrived home at 2am, with our first little family picture: